Q&A: Helping child with losing deceptive nanny

Anonymous writes in on behalf of a friend:

"A friend of mine is in the middle of a nanny nightmare. Short story: trusted nanny of two years, f/t, has traveled w/family and has even been living w/them for the last few months while between apartments. They just found out this woman has been lying to them for months - dropping their daughter off at a daycare center for hours at a time (center run by her SIL so no paperwork) every week. Also told them she was taking her to "the pool" which turns out to be at her boyfriend's house, where little girl watches TV (it was an explicit part of the written contract with the nanny that the girl not watch TV) and eats candy.

My friend is trying to decide what if any recourse they have (they fired her and she's moved out) to make sure this doesn't happen to other families thinking about hiring this woman, and also what to tell their daughter. It all came out because the little girl told them (she's been trying to, for months, but they couldn't map what she was saying about "playgroup" to the reality that she was being left alone at a daycare). They don't want their daughter to think she got this nanny in trouble, or that if she lies that she will be kicked out just like the nanny. Any ideas?"

Whoa. This is a really tangled web. Wow.

They definitely need to get the word out about what the nanny did to other parents in the community. I don't know how big an area they live in, or what kind of parent networks they have, but they need to start telling the story as much as possible to make sure this doesn't happen to any other family. They are really, really lucky that the worst that happened to their daughter was TV watching and eating candy at the boyfriend's house, and another child might not be so lucky.

Now, as for the daughter, I think it's a shame that she's going to lose a person who's been with her for the last two years, but they clearly can't continue to have contact. They certainly don't need to let the daughter know that she was the one who ultimately uncovered the deception. They can say that they found out that the nanny was not doing what she was supposed to do, and this "finding out" doesn't have to ahve anything to do with the daughter. So I wouldn't be too worried about that.

The problem is that it's a little tough for a 3-year-old to understand that a paid caregiver is a paid caregiver. The best angle I can think of to explain the firing of the nanny that isn't going to make the little girl afraid that she could be sent away if she misbehaves is emphasizing that the nanny was doing something unsafe. Remember last year when I had to fire the nanny who was 30+ minutes late picking up my kids three times in two days and then didn't answer my calls so I didn't know where the kids were for a long couple of hours? The way we explained that to my kids was that what the nanny did was dangerous to them. My younger son was 4 and understood that, so it might be worth a try with the 3-year-old to say that what the nanny did was dangerous to her, so they needed to make sure that their daughter was safe by having someone else take care of her.

I am so sorry they are going through this. The betrayal and guilt and anger and sadness must just be so intense for them. I hope that they find another, quality nanny that they can really trust right away.

Does anyone have any other suggestions for how to make sure the daughter understands that she's not going to have to leave for misbehavior?

I think it would also be good if people could share stories of really great nannies/babysiters they have so we can remember that there are truly quality people out there who care for children.

(If any of you remember our Nanny B, who moved away last summer, she's happily working with kids and doing theater across the country in an area that's more her style than NYC and we still talk to her often. We had three great babysitters--after the big firing incident--last year and hope to see the two still in NYC often this coming year.)